The Rame Peninsula, for anybody who doesn’t know it, is the bit of Cornwall you can see from Plymouth Hoe. It’s a natural assumption therefore to think that this part of Cornwall is frequented by Janners (Plymothians) more than visitors from elsewhere, and you would be right: But you would be wrong for thinking that it’s somewhere to pass by on your journey down west, and in this post I’m going to explain why.
There are several ways of getting there, but for people with a car who like to explore I’m suggesting that we travel the long way round to begin with and drive across the Tamar Bridge, and then return to Plymouth via the Torpoint Ferry. I have my reasons for saying this, but you can travel the other way round if you prefer.
There’s no need to drive through Plymouth to travel over the Tamar Bridge into Cornwall because the main A38 trunk road is a dual carriageway all the way from the M5, and there’s no toll to drive into Cornwall either – but there is when driving back into Devon. The same applies to the Torpoint Ferry, and the current cost for both the bridge and the ferry is £2 (July 2020).
After driving over the bridge continue to follow the A38 around Saltash towards Tideford, where just past the village there’s a turning on the left for St. Germans, a village I’ve written about in a previous post. We haven’t reached the Rame peninsula just yet, but it’s not far. Drive through the village and on to Polbathic where you’ll need to turn left onto the A374 that eventually leads to the Torpoint Ferry. Don’t worry, I’m not sending you back over the Tamar just yet. Instead, you’ll need to look out for a turning on the right signposted Crafthole. When you reach the crossroads with the B3247 at Crafthole drive straight across and follow the sign down into Portwrinkle, which is where we start our trip around the peninsula. It’s only a small area and it is a fairly short drive around, but there’s plenty to see, and so for this post at least, I’m only going to give a brief explanation of each point of interest. Hopefully, I’ll get back to expand on some of them at a later date.
In all honesty there isn’t a great deal to see in Portwrinkle but it does afford some good views. The picture below shows the south Cornish coastline looking west, and the featured image at the top of the page looks east towards Rame Head, which is where we’re heading for. There’s a tiny Harbour and a small beach here, but not a lot else, so we’ll move on towards Whitsand Bay.
To get to Whitsand Bay we need to return to Crafthole (don’t you just love some of these names?) and turn right towards Tregantle. Look out for a large lay-by along the left-hand side of this road and pull in. Although you can’t see it from the lay-by, across the road is Tregantle Fort.
A look at a map of the area around Plymouth Sound will show how vulnerable the city would be against any potential enemies, and coupled with the fact that it has a large military presence as well as the Naval Dockyard, it’s not difficult to understand why there are a large number of forts in the area. According to Castles and Fortifications of England and Wales, 70 Batteries and Forts have been built around Plymouth. Many of them have survived; some have been converted for modern-day use, and some are still in use by the military, including Tregantle.
One of a group of forts known as the Palmerston Forts, Tregantle was built between 1858 and 1868 as part of the western Plymouth Defences to prevent landings at Whitsand Bay. As it’s still in use, there is no access into the fort, but the coast path goes around the outside of it and across the firing range (which you can’t go across if it’s in use of course), but it’s worth getting out of the car to take a look. Just walk along the short road into the fort and take the footpath to the left of the entrance, and not the one down to the beach.
Next, we’re going to drive along Whitsand Bay, so look out for the road that leads off right just past the fort. This large bay is a magnet for people who like sunbathing, diving, and Hang Gliding, which is why you’ll find me driving straight on through. Mind you, I have to admit there are some great views to be had, so make sure you give yourself time to pull in to one of the lay-bys or the car park at Sharrow Beach to enjoy them. Incidentally, access to the beaches at Whitsand Bay is not as easy as you might think, but Sharrow is probably the easiest.
This one-time military road branches off right towards Rame just past The View restaurant, but it isn’t signposted, so keep your eyes glued to the road and not the view when looking out for it. This narrow lane brings us into the tiny village of Rame with a church dedicated to St Germanus. Unusually for Cornwall, it has a spire rather than a tower, and even though the city of Plymouth is no distance away, it doesn’t have any gas, water, or electricity, and is still lit by candles for services.
The lane ends at Rame Head where there’s a car park next to the Coastwatch Station. You could well see Dartmoor ponies grazing here, and you may even see them at the chapel of St Michael on the headland itself. This strategic viewpoint was once an Iron Age Hillfort before passing through the hands of Tavistock Abbey in the 10th century. It was granted a licence to hold mass in 1397, and has been used as a lookout for guarding the Western Approaches to Plymouth Sound more or less ever since.
Today, the chapel is just a ruin, but if you’ve picked a good time to come, the area around the headland is a great place to have a picnic and watch the maritime activities out at sea. Even if it’s only a reasonably clear day you should be able to see the lighthouse perched on the Eddystone Rocks about 9 miles due south, and it’s certainly not uncommon to see naval ships out of Devonport on exercises, or even sailing off to some far distant mission somewhere. If you have time, drop into the Coastwatch Station and find out more from the volunteers that run it. I’ve always found these people friendly and accommodating, and they can tell you a lot more than I can here.
We’re going to have to turn back from Rame Head, but this time, follow the signposts out of the village towards Cawsand. There’s a large car park as you enter Cawsand which I recommend you use because you may want to spend a while here, and the roads in villages like this weren’t built for driving around.
Cawsand is joined, like an umbilical cord, to Kingsand, its next-door neighbour, and it’s much easier to walk between the two rather than drive. It’s only a tiny village, but it wouldn’t be difficult to imagine smugglers operating here in times gone by – and I’m not sure that things have changed all that much today either. Back in 2002 I was working with somebody who lived at Portwrinkle. He helped himself, as did most of the population around here from what I can gather, to some timber that got washed ashore from the Kodima, a timber carrier that was on passage from Sweden to Libya. Severe weather had caused damage to the ship, and its cargo was listing, and so in the end it was decided to rescue the sixteen Russian crew members onboard and leave the ship to drift. She finally ran aground at Tregantle.
All the beaches between Whitsand Bay and Plymouth had so much timber washed up on them that locals could have easily put Travis Perkins out of business. Sheds and chalets sprang up everywhere and the police issued a dire warning to anybody caught taking timber away from the wreck that they would be in serious trouble – but it never made a scrap of difference. In a huge operation, the ship was salvaged and taken down to Falmouth and the beach at Tregantle was eventually cleared, but I’m sure there are more wooden buildings along Whitsand Bay than there used to be.
Kingsand is very similar to Cawsand in many ways, but there used to be one major difference – Cawsand was in Cornwall, and Kingsand was in Devon. I know that sounds hard to believe because the River Tamar has always been the obvious borderline, well it has to me at least, but until the boundaries were changed in 1844, that’s how it was, and if you don’t believe me look for the boundary marker on the house where the two villages meet in Garrett Street, opposite the Halfway House Inn.
Below are a couple of pictures of Kingsand.
Rame, Cawsand, and Kingsand are all part of the Edgcumbe Estate which not so long ago belonged to the Edgcumbe family, but which now includes a country park jointly owned and managed by Cornwall County Council and Plymouth City Council – and this is where we’re heading for next.
The Edgcumbe family have an interesting history and is closely connected to Cotehele on the banks of the Tamar; and as the family and their estate warrants a separate entry, I’m just going to give a brief explanation of what you can see and do in the Country Park for now.
In a nutshell, the park includes Mount Edgcumbe House, formal gardens with an orangery, landscaped woodland, a Deer Park, the inevitable battery and fort, sculptures, and last, but certainly not least, some fabulous views. Many Plymothians catch the passenger ferry from Stonehouse to Cremyll, and so it’s worth bearing in mind that if you come here on a weekend in the school summer holidays, you won’t be on your own, especially as there’s no entry fee. That said, the Country park covers 865 acres, so it shouldn’t take you long to escape to somewhere peaceful. Janners love it here, and to be honest, so do I.
The carousel below shows some pictures of The Orangery, Picklecombe Fort (now apartments), and the Cremyll Ferry with the Royal William Yard at Stonehouse behind
It’s time that we headed back towards the Torpoint ferry now, but if you were thinking that you might be able to take a short cut through Millbrook and St. John, I would think again if I were you. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that these places aren’t worth taking a look at, but the roads just aren’t made for driving through, and to be honest, it’s much quicker to take the long way round (and much easier on the nerves if you’re not used to driving through narrow lanes). It’s for this reason that I recommend driving along the B3247 back to Tregantle and then take the right turn up Antony Hill, which will bring you to the village of Antony and the A374.
Before reaching Torpoint, there’s a National Trust (NT) property called Antony House. I’ll be quite honest with you, it’s never been somewhere that’s been on the top of my list of places to visit, but as we joined the NT again this year, and they had just opened the gardens again (not the house, thanks to Covid-19), I thought we should book a time slot for when we were going to be here. So what did I think of the gardens? Well, I’m still not sure because on our way here the car dashboard decided to send out a plume of smoke and there was a bad smell of burning, so you can understand why I wasn’t concentrating on the herbaceous borders and manicured lawns while we were walking round – oh! and just for good measure it was the hottest day of the year so far – just when I needed some air conditioning.
All we had to do now was make sure that the car would survive the Torpoint Ferry and the drive through Plymouth back onto the A38, which, thankfully, it did.
The Rame Peninsula is often described as the forgotten corner of Cornwall, but I wouldn’t mind betting that if you take the trouble to turn off the A38 on the way down west and explore this part of the county, you won’t forget it once you’ve been here.